The Crawling MEAT-EATER of KOMODO
The fresh-Eating monsters that hide in forest of the small island of Komodo are feared and regarded as sacred by the inhabitants of the island. They are huge lizards of the monitor family. Their numbers are decreasing, and it is even feared that the species will become extinct. Two foreign university students, Albert Six and Karen Hummel, recently visited the island, which is located in West Nusatenggara, between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, during their vacation trip trough Indonesia. It was quite a dangerous trip, but it was worthwhile. Albert and Karen saw with their own eyes seven of the remarkable creatures eating a goat. The Komodo lizard is a meat eater or carnivorous. In the fact, it is one of the few lizards that feed on small mammals. It’s reasonable that the islanders choose to be friendly with the several hundred remaining lizards, which are sometimes referred to as “dragons,” because of their appearance and behavior.
“It’s really horrifying to see how these creatures eat a goat, and to think that they might eat a human being in the same manner,” Albert told us of what he had seen.
“ As a matter of fact, we visited Indonesia just to spend a holiday,” he continued. “But when we heard that there are still ‘dragon’ to be seen on Komodo Island, we naturally didn`t want to miss the opportunity. Yet it wasn`t as simple as you may think, because you have too look for your own boat, and when you find one, you have to consider whether it is safe enough to sail in on a rough sea for more than 24 hours before you reach the island. Then you still have to consider the whether conditions.”
Two foreign students started their journey from the small island of Sape, east of Sumbawa. Since they couldn`t find a hotel on the island, they had to spend the night at a small police station.
“Mardi, a kind, helpful police officer, put us in contact with a skipper who might be willing to take us to Komodo. He named Jafar. Before we came to an agreement, we demanded to have a look at the boat first. Jafar took us to harbor and show us the sailing boat. We were somewhat disappointed on seeing the boat, because we thought it ridiculous to sail in it. The boat was seven meters long and less than one meter wide. To keep it balanced, on the both sides of it there were bamboo poles, which were used as floats. But Jafar assured us that it was absolutely reliable.
“In fact, there wasn’t any other choice,“ Albert went on. “Besides Jafar, Karen and I, there were three other men who came along with us. Their job was to row the boat in case there was no wind.”
“We departed at two o’clock in the darkness of a starless night. We had a good wind and when the sun rose the fallowing morning, we found that we had crossed the Strait of Sape.”
But during he day the whether was not so favorable. Since there was no wind, Albert had to help row the boat. Late that afternoon they reached the far end of Komodo and found a safe place to moor the boat and o take a rest. But it was not their final destination, they still had to continue their journey by sea, as it was impossible to walk through the dense forests.
Early the next morning the wind enable them to use the sail again, so they continued their voyage without much difficulty. At the last they reached their destination. Albert and Karen were very happy to set food on the shore of Komodo Island.
There is only one village on the island, which covers an area of about 184 square miles. The 457 in habitants live in bamboo houses which are built on the wooden poles. They use the space under their houses to keep their goats and pigs. The chief of the village welcomed to foreign guests with a broad smile but a serious look. It was probably because we had just lost his only two children. They died of malaria, as do many other little children in the village. The conversation with the chief was helped by a local teacher who happened to know a bit of English.
It took about half an hour to travel on foot from the village across the beach and big rocks to the forest where the giant lizards by nature make their home. The two foreigners were advised to be careful of snakes and other harmful animals.
“We walked towards a place from which we could hear the bleating of goat.” Albert said, “Several men had arrived there before us to prepare a meal for the monitors. For that purpose they slaughtered a goat and tied the carcass by its legs to four wooden pegs that were planted in the ground”
“When we arrived at the sunny open space in the forest, they were busy taking out the inside of the goat and scattering them all around the place until the smell filled the air to attract the lizards. After all had been done and the goat’s legs were securely tied to the pegs to prevent the remaining carcass from being dragged away by the lizards, we looked for a hiding place among the dense shrubs.”
Shortly afterwards a small monitor appeared from some shrubs. It was only one meter long, but it seemed to be the most brutal of its sort. It began to eat the scattered pieces of goat flesh. After this youngster came a bigger one.
Although the newcomer was bigger than the first one, it seemed to be shy, It look a long look around before it dared to snatch some of the scattered bits of flesh and then it ran away as fast as it could. Only half an hour later other bigger lizards showed up. Now there were five of them; two were about two meters long, and the other three were three or more meters long. Four of the creatures pulled and tore the carcass with all their might. The biggest one snatched the goat’s head without difficulty and ate it up, together with the horns. The smallest monitor, which had moved around brutally from the beginning, was now pushed aside by he bigger ones. Up in the sky above them some vultures were flying around, waiting for the remains the giant lizards would leave for them.
After a fight for the last bits of the carcass the reptiles began to disappear into the forest.
“Our guide jumped down from a tree where he had been hidden and took the rope that had been used to tie the dead goat. Rope is one of the most important household items for the Komodo islanders. When we started home, the guide warmed us again of the danger of snakes, because the island is indeed full of poisonous snakes and oven the smallest snakes might be deadly.”
The nearest medical aid station is located somewhere about two days’ distance by sailing boat. Anyone who happened to be bitten by a poisonous snake might indeed find that “his last days were numbered.” The causes of the death in Komodo are mostly snake-bite and malaria.
It’s undeniable that the Komodo “dragon” is a dangerous beast Zoologists have known oh the existence of the prehistoric lizard since the early 19th century. But not until 1912 could they really get more biological data about it when four of the gigantic lizards were caught and taken to the zoological in Bogor.
The old name of the creature was “buaya darat” (land crocodile); scientifically it is called Veranus Komodoensis. Like all monitors, it has a long whip-like tail with which it strikes and cuts any person or animal that attacks it. According to the information from the people of Komodo themselves, the biggest of its sort that has ever been seen was one about seven meters long. The heaviest one that has ever been caught weighed 150 kilograms.
Its extraordinarily sharp sense of smell and its good eyesight, together with the fact that its head can move practically in a circle, help the huge lizard hunt for the deer and swine.
It is estimated that the numbers of the species are about 800, and yet it seems that they are becoming extinct. It is still a mystery why the prehistoric Veranus can survive on the island of Komodo, after having had to face the hard challenges of nature. Indeed it can be found only on that island and not at any other place in the world, yet Komodo is only 29 by 30 kilometers in area. Scientists do not know yet how long the animal can live. The one that was kept in the zoo of Frankfurt, Germany, died in 1940 when it was 17 years of age.
Although on the most occasions a Komodo dragon will run away on seeing a human being, it is said that beast enjoys eating dead human flesh. In a given situation, a Komodo lizard may attack an unfortunate villager with its deadly claws and jaws. The bite of the angry monitor can be fatal, as it may cause the victim to get the deadly infection.
Once there was a group of Swiss tourists visiting the island. When they got back to the village, they were terrified to find than one of them a 62-year-old man, was missing. The villagers at once organized a search party and set out with torches in their hands. They returned without success. Then an official search was made by a group of policemen, but they too didn’t succeed in finding the missing man. Several weeks later a coconut collector found his camera in the forest. It is still a mystery even today whether or not the old man was attacked and eaten by the giant lizards, because there were no remains of any kind, either clothing or bones.
The local people of Komodo are by nature afraid of their fellow-islanders, the so-called dragons. There is a reason for this, since there is a legend that teaches them to live in peace with the beasts. The wife of Saknog, the man who is said to have been the first settler on the island, once gave birth to a human baby and a dragon baby. So, according to the legend, the people of Komodo and the monitors are brothers and sisters.
Even today, whenever a Komodo islander meets a monitor, he calls out “Sebay”, which means “Hallo, brother.” It is said that upon hearing the greeting, the giant lizard will disappear into the forest peacefully…….!